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Attributed to Charles I, King of Great Britain (1600-49)

Eikon Basilike: the portraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings 1649

Black goatskin binding; both boards and spine re-backed onto a darker goatskin. Identical design on left and right boards. Gold-tooled all over. Left and right boards contain a panel design, formed of an outer roll-tooled border of semi-circles and double fillet lines and an inner border of double fillet lines; central inner panel contains an additional diamond-shaped dotted roll border, with large floral stamps on each of the points. Inner panel profusely decorated with floral, feather and swirling stamps. Spine re-backed but contemporary with the right and left boards. Flat with no raised bands; outer roll-tooled border of semi-circles and double fillet lines identical to left and right boards. Diamond-shaped floral stamps at the head and tail and centre of spine, and six horizontal stamps as if to give the impression of bands. Silk ties fixed to the boards through pairs of holes on either side. Inside of left and right boards contain modern (20th century?) pastedown and flyleaves, so that fixture of the ties on the inside of boards is not visible. | 20.3 x 12.9 x 3.2 (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1080417

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  • This particular copy of the Eikon Basilike is notable for the four lengths of wide, blue, silk ribbon attached to its binding, and for an inscription inside it which reads, underneath the signature of Jane Manser: "This Book was the Gift of Sr Oliver Flemming Master of the Ceremonies to King Charles the First, together with ye ribband strings which were the Garter his Majesty wore his George on". The Eikon Basilike was first published in the early days of February 1649 (new style) soon after the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649, and was probably, at least in part, written by the King himself. It accounts various events and hardships encountered by him in the years preceding his defeat. It quickly became one of the biggest selling books of the seventeenth century, and it fuelled the growing idea that Charles was a martyr.

    There are numerous early editions of the Eikon Basilike. This particular one is edition number 25 as listed in Francis F Madan's authoritative work A New bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1950). It was printed by Roger Daniel, probably for John Williams, at the end of March 1649. The frontispiece (number 3 in Madan's Bibliography) was engraved by William Marshall (active 1617-48) and is only slightly different from the original frontispiece produced by him for the first edition. The chiefly emblematical design was possibly conceived either by Charles I himself before his execution, or by Dr John Gauden (d. 1662), Dean of Bocking in Essex and later Bishop of Exeter, then Worcester, who claimed to be the Eikon Basilike's author, and who probably had a role in editing it at the very least. The frontispiece's symbolic weighted palm tree and rock beaten by waves were supposed to embody the King's character, and this engraving can be considered to be an important piece of propaganda in the fight to win the public over to the Royalist cause. The act of adding the Garter ribbons, which were thought to be a relic of the King, to his text – perceived by some as akin to Scripture – epitomises the intention Charles I and his supporters had when putting forward the imagery of the King as martyr and saint.

    The book came into the Royal Collection in 1949 when Bernard C Reade presented it to Queen Mary, widow of King George V and mother of King George VI. Queen Mary was known to collect objects related to the Stuart Royal Family, and Mr Reade wrote that he would be honoured if she would accept his book for her collection. Mr Reade knew that the book had belonged to his grandmother, Christian Williams, née Gill, but the provenance cannot be traced back any further. It has not been possible to discover the identity of Jane Manser, who signed the book.

    The book and ribbons were recently conserved. For further information and a discussion of whether or not the ribbons might be Charles I's Garter ribbon, see our conservation case study here.
    Provenance

    Presented to Queen Mary by Bernard C Reade, 1949

  • Medium and techniques

    Black goatskin binding; both boards and spine re-backed onto a darker goatskin. Identical design on left and right boards. Gold-tooled all over. Left and right boards contain a panel design, formed of an outer roll-tooled border of semi-circles and double fillet lines and an inner border of double fillet lines; central inner panel contains an additional diamond-shaped dotted roll border, with large floral stamps on each of the points. Inner panel profusely decorated with floral, feather and swirling stamps. Spine re-backed but contemporary with the right and left boards. Flat with no raised bands; outer roll-tooled border of semi-circles and double fillet lines identical to left and right boards. Diamond-shaped floral stamps at the head and tail and centre of spine, and six horizontal stamps as if to give the impression of bands. Silk ties fixed to the boards through pairs of holes on either side. Inside of left and right boards contain modern (20th century?) pastedown and flyleaves, so that fixture of the ties on the inside of boards is not visible.

    Measurements

    20.3 x 12.9 x 3.2 (book measurement (conservation))

    10.2 cm (Width); 34.0 cm (Length) (ribbon)

    10.2 cm (Width); 35.0 cm (Length) (ribbon)

    10.2 cm (Width); 37.0 cm (Length) (ribbon)

    10.2 cm (Width); 30.0 cm (Length) (ribbon)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Eikon Basilike : the portraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings : together with his private prayers used ... and delivered to Dr Juxon ...